A study of 1st John 3:1
1 John 3:1
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
The main issue here is the free, unmerited love of the Father in bringing us into His family (a state of justification and life) based on the righteousness of His Son. John’s point is that we who are objects of God’s free and sovereign love, “the sons of God” in Christ, are in this unchangeable state of justification. God the Father conditioned all of our salvation upon God the Son and sent Him into the world to meet those conditions. Based on His righteousness alone, we are in God’s family and, therefore, called the sons of God by the adoption of grace.
To understand this whole chapter, it is necessary to know exactly who it is the world does not know, and what this means. The world cannot identify and distinguish the sons of God, those born of God who walk in the light and have fellowship with the Father and the Son. The world cannot identify and distinguish true Christians. This does not mean that the world cannot recognize our acts of immorality and religion. It does not mean that much of the world will not call us “Christian” as they see and define Christianity. Much of the world will call anyone “Christian” who claims to follow Jesus and who is moral and dedicated in religion, but the world cannot distinguish true Christians as God defines and distinguishes true Christians. The world’s judgments of Christians and non-Christians is based on a false, self-righteous standard, not God’s standard. The world looks at a person’s acts and judges by that standard without any regard to the state. The world does not know how to judge the state of a person according to God’s testimony. The world only know self-righteous judgment (Matthew 7:1) and is opposed to righteous judgment (John 7:24) based on God’s testimony alone.
The greatest proof of this is Christ Himself. The world did not recognize Him to be THE only-begotten Son of God, the Messiah.
How, then, can it recognize those who follow Him to be the sons of God?
Consider the life of Christ here on earth. Many proclaimed that He was the Messiah based on His love, morality, and the miracles He performed, but when they began to listen to His message, His doctrine, they saw that His Gospel exposed that all they highly esteemed as pleasing to God was no more than dead works, evil deeds, that evidenced they were lost (John 3:19-20; John 7:7; John 8:44). Christ would not speak peace to them based on their false ground of salvation. It was based on His message that they began to hate Him and call for His crucifixion. Christ told His disciples that they would experience the same treatment from the world when they spoke the truth (John 15:18-16:3).
The world may call you a “Christian,” but it will not be based on God’s standard of judgment revealed in the Gospel. Much of the world will not even call you “Christian” if you will identify yourself and expose them according to God’s definition of a Christian. Tell them that all who are either ignorant of or not submitted to the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel, that all who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, are lost, seeking to establish a righteousness of their own, bringing forth fruit unto death, evil deeds, and are inspired by Satan, not God. Like the message of Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, this light exposes what the world highly esteems to be iniquity. If we use the language of the apostle John in this chapter to identify the world and not speak peace to them, they will not, they cannot, identify us as the only true Christians. From here John proceeds to identify and distinguish true Christians from the world.
Let us also remember that the reason we should tell anyone who is of the world that they are lost and their deeds are evil is not only to distinguish and identify both them and ourselves, but also that they might be saved — “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
Our Lord never preached the Gospel merely to promote some kind of elitist attitude. He commanded true Christians to be witnesses in the world, not to compromise in the name of love and unity by speaking peace where there is no peace, but by shining as lights in darkness desiring the glory of God in the salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ.